when an interviewer asks “why shouldn’t we hire you?”

A reader writes:

My friend was asked a question during a phone interview and we were both stumped on a good answer. It was “Why shouldn’t we hire you for this job?” She answered that eventually she wanted to go to graduate school, so if they were looking for someone with longevity, she wouldn’t be their gal. It must have gone over well enough, as she was asked for a second phone interview.

I see this question as a less effective variation of “describe a weakness” or “what about this job concerns you?” These other questions I don’t mind, as they allow me to give a more well-rounded picture of myself, to describe how I have overcome challenges in the past, etc. However, I can’t really see a positive to the “Why shouldn’t we hire you?” question and don’t really know a good way to respond.

What do you think is a good answer for this question? Is it not as bad of a question as I think it is?

Yeah, it’s not a great question and it has all the marks of an interviewer who has lost sight of the fact that interviews are a two-way street. I suspect this interviewer would bristle if a candidate asked, “What are some reasons that I shouldn’t want this job?”

Just because someone is sitting in front of you discussing a job doesn’t mean that you can subject them to any question you want. You do need to probe and really get beneath the surface, and you need to be really sure that someone is the right hire before you make a job offer, but there are plenty of ways to do that without questions like this.

For instance, if interviewer was trying to uncover fit issues that she might have missed, she could have instead asked, “What’s your biggest reservation about the job’s fit?”  Or, “Tell me about some times in the past when you haven’t felt a job or an organizaton’s culture was a good fit for you.”  Or, “In assessing the job, where do you see the strongest areas of fit and where might it not be ideal?”

Back to your question about what a good answer to the original question would be, I think your friend’s answer was just fine because it was honest. You should be honest in interviews, because you want to be screened out for jobs where you won’t be a good fit — because you don’t want to be miserable or get fired later on. And there’s always some way in which you’re not a perfect fit for a job, and it can be useful to surface it and talk about it. So I’d do that, prefacing it with a comment like, ”Well, I think we’re both looking at fit throughout this process” to reinforce the idea that it’s a two-way street and that candidates aren’t just waiting to be picked — they’re evaluating and assessing the fit right back.

This entry was posted in Leadership. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.